California fields are coming up plums in 1987, as well as potatoes and and tomatoes, cauliflower and corn--all enjoying a bountiful harvest in the nation's most productive farmlands.
But the horn of plenty plays not-so-sweet music for farmers.
"It's a wonderful year for farms," said Mark Wall, coordinator of the Southland Farmers Market Assn. "It's a horrible year for farmers."
Big harvests can mean small profit, as prices plummet in response to excess supply. at unprofitable rates.
Fruits, vegetables and nuts are all in high supply due to nearly ideal weather conditions, light spring rains and a cool summer.
Farmers in Tulare, Fresno and Kern counties, which yield larger harvests each year than anywhere else in the country, welcome the bounty with a mixture of celebration and dread.
The going wholesale price for melons last week was only $3 per carton, about $2 less than each carton costs farmers to produce.
However, smaller farmers stand to benefit from the plentiful harvest, having avoided the problems afflicting their larger-scale competitors, said Pat Summers, editor of the Farm Fresh newsletter in Santa Rosa.